A classy summer of classical music across the Bay Area 

In addition to music festivals in The City, events in attractive locations such as Napa and Santa Cruz encourage combining two fine traditional seasonal activities — day trips and concert-going in casual attire, in informal settings. Note: Summer ticket prices often are cheaper than those in fall and winter.  

Summer and the Symphony

San Francisco Symphony’s summer series typically emphasizes pops and “light classics,” but numerous events will appeal to those of longer hair as well.

On the pop side, try Johnny Mathis on June 27, Pink Martini on June 30, and jazz trumpeter Chris Botti on July 14-15.

Other attractions include Alexander Barantschik leading music by Mozart, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky on June 29-30 and July 2.

For all tastes, the great 1942 classic “Casablanca” screens July 22, with the orchestra playing Max Steiner’s original score.

  • June 27-July 29
  • $15-$110
  • Davies Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
  • (415) 864-6000
  • www.sfsymphony.org


Festival del Sole

The “festival of the sun” takes place in spectacular Napa vineyards and locations, such as the medieval courtyard of Castello di Amorosa.

Concerts feature the Russian National Orchestra on July 18-20 and 24; violinist Sarah Chang and pianist Joyce Yang on July 21; and the Emerson String Quartet playing works by Haydn, Bartók and Schubert on July 18.

Music, food, wine and scenery are combined attractions at the festival; which also includes an evening of dance featuring principal dancers from the Bolshoi Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and American Ballet Theater on July 22.


Midsummer Mozart Festival

Led by founder George Cleve, the 37th annual series features concerts in San Jose, Berkeley, Sonoma and in The City at Herbst Theatre.

Pianist Jon Nakamatsu, clarinetist Mark Brandenburg, violinist Robin Hansen, soprano Christina Major and tenor Christopher Bengochea are soloists in diverse programs. Symphonies No. 36 (“Linz”) and 39 are also scheduled.  


American Bach Soloists

After appearing at festivals around the Bay for many years, the group has turned to a combination festival and academy, featuring performances, lectures, coaching and master classes at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Music Director Jeffrey Thomas conducts; he and members of the period orchestra teach and coach, and free admission to afternoon activities is offered.

Events lead to performances of big works — a concert version of the Handel opera “Ariodante” on July 22 and the mighty Bach B Minor Mass on July 23.  

  • July 15–23
  • $8.50-$75
  • S.F. Conservatory of Music
  • 50 Oak St., S.F.
  • (415) 621-7900
  • a href="http://www.americanbach.org">www.americanbach.org



In its ninth season, the nationally and locally acclaimed program focuses on the music and impact of Johannes Brahms.

Concerts feature famous instrumentalists and talented young musicians from around the globe whom they are coaching.

Festival directors David Finckel and Wu Han have organized the season into six programs, ranging from the opening “Young Eagle” (works by Mozart, Schubert and Schumann, which lead to Brahms’ early works) to the closing “Farewell,” of Brahms’ late works.

A new venue, the excellent Center for Performing Arts Theater, is a great added attraction.

  • July 22-Aug. 13
  • $20-$72
  • Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton, and other venues
  • (650) 331-0202
  • www.musicatmenlo.org


Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music

Going into its 49th season, this festival has won 28 consecutive annual national awards for “adventurous” programming.

Led by Marin Alsop, programs of the best current classical music this year feature artists such as pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, horn player Kristin Jurkscheit and electric guitarist D.J. Sparr.

The Santa Cruz informalilty, perfect for summer evenings, makes the sometimes challenging novelty go down easy.  

  • July 31-Aug. 14
  • $30-$50
  • Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz
  • (831) 426-6966
  • www.cabrillomusic.org

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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